Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Cure for What Ails You

     In the early 1970s I went through a back-to-nature phase. My girlfriend and I moved to upstate New York and lived with a friend who cultivated a huge garden. We helped him till and rake and weed and harvest; and we loved all the fresh produce from the garden. The ripe tomatoes off the vine. Corn eaten ten minutes after it was picked. But the greatest thing about the garden was that we were not responsible for it. He was. We just helped out a bit. If we had been in charge, the garden would have been nothing but a patch of weeds.

     It takes both talent and luck to grow a garden. Gardening is like gambling.

     When I bought my first home, I put in a vegetable garden. But I didn't have much luck -- although I think my problem was not so much bad luck as not enough work.

     In the early 2000s, after I got divorced, I lived in a condo, and there was a little patch of dirt out front that I turned into an herb garden. I grew basil, mint, parsley and a few other things. Plus, I had a tub on my deck with a tomato plant. I didn't rake in much, but at least the mint and parsley thrived, and a got a few tomatoes.

     Now I have the best set-up of all. My bother-in-law lives in Pennsylvania and he's a serious gardener who tills about an acre of corn in his front yard, and grows a variety of other vegetables on another half acre in his back yard. He and his wife have no children. They put up some of their produce, but they give a lot of it away. We visit them two or three times a summer, and come home laden with corn, tomatoes, beans, and lots of other stuff. Last year he even did sweet potatoes.

     I figure gardening is a lot like gambling. Some people are good at it; they can figure the odds, know how to play their cards. Others, like me, just don't know what they're doing, and our luck arrives when we know people who are flush, and who don't mind spreading it around.

     Blogger Meryl Baer has taken the gamble to retire to the Jersey Shore, right near Atlantic City. I've read that a couple of the big casinos have shut down. And now Baer has done a post on the city that, she says, is one of the most economically distressed urban areas in the country, a place where current events are a lot more interesting than any fictional story. If you're interested in some urban intrigue stake a claim over at her post A City Way Down on Its Luck.

     Of course, I know some people who have built their own house. And based on my own experience with contractors, I think building a house is even more of a gamble than growing a garden, or making a trip to Atlantic City. But not so Laura Lee Carter. She and her husband have been constructing a new solar home in the outback of Colorado, and her latest post More Progress Up at Our Build Last Week shows that they are making a lot of headway. All I can do is marvel at their courage, and appreciate vicariously the spectacular scenery at  their new house.

     There's another gamble we all take when we pick up our smart phones. This was a big issue a while ago, then seemed to fade, and so I thought it was just a scare. But apparently cellphones do emit at least a small amount of potentially hazardous radiation. On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, reports on her post Cellphone Cases Make Phones Work Harder that many cases are so badly designed that they partially block the antenna, making the phone work harder to transmit a signal and intensifying the radiation that strikes the user’s head and body. Rita’s article also offers tips on reducing your cellphone radiation exposure.

     I know my phone case partially blocks the camera lens, so I have to make sure to move it out of the way when I take a picture. It's kind of annoying. But I didn't know the case actually posed a health danger. Personally, the way I deal with the problem is that I don't use my smart phone much. But for those who do, perhaps you should check out Robison's post.

     And finally, back to gardening. In her post Is Gardening a Simple Cure for What Ails You? blogger Kathy Gottberg of SmartLiving365, remembers her mom working in her garden. It was little more than a rock-and-gravel patch of dirt, yet she managed to harvest a few tomatoes and zucchini in spite of the inhospitable ground.

     "While I always enjoyed the taste of her fresh vegetables," recalls Gottberg, "my life was far too important and fast-paced to even imagine having the time or interest to garden. But now here I am so many years later, spending time nearly every day nurturing tiny green plants in my care. Though it's taken a while, I've  gradually come to realize that many of the hidden benefits my mother harvested went far beyond the obvious. I have come to realize that gardening may just be a cure for what ails many people, as well as the planet itself."

     After reading Gottberg's elegant words, I wonder if all of us might be better off we if just folded our cards, put down our smart phones, and picked up a hoe or a rake instead.


Tabor said...

Gardening is hard work in direct relation to the size of the space being gardened. Even small pots like pets require bi-weekly care. Still there is nothing more therapeutic in my book.

Anonymous said...

Regarding gardening. It takes work. And like learning to play the piano or any other worthwhile thing in life it takes practice. Trial and error are ingredients. The kid helping me with my garden last year was a new horticulture grad and had tons of book learning and had observed his Mom over his childhood. Nevertheless he learned much from me. Afterglow, my Mom had me working in the garden at age 3. Thus I have been doing this for 70 years. After a while, you get the hang of it.

I started my kids in my two-acre vegetable garden when they were young. They helped me pick the bean beetles and crush egg cases by hand every night (we were totally organic). The neighbor was amazed at our non-use of pesticides. He said all the beetles came over to his pesticide patch!

Today each one of my kids is gardening, farming etc. (one in San Diego where water is in short supply). Gardening is also a way of living.

As for building a home, been there, done that, and it ended in a divorce.

Pam said...

Wish I had a dollar for every time I've threatened to quit gardening--I'd have retired a long time ago. Even when my low back screams at me, you'll find me in the garden, pulling weeds, watering, and watching God make stuff grow. Why? Maybe it's the delicious flavors, but I think many of us have a need to nurture. It's a mystery to me, but I intend to keep on tending my garden as long as possible.

DJan said...

I've never been a gardener, although I, like you, was always happy to have a chance to eat stuff out of somebody's garden. Four years ago all that changed when I took over 7x23-foot plot of land to garden and have learned much by trial and error. I was out there yesterday pulling up buttercups and dandelions, getting ready to put in my crop for the season. Looks like we might be having a warm summer, so I'll try tomatoes again. And it's really hard work: today I'm sore from a couple of hours of weeding yesterday. :-)

Kathy @ SMART Living said...

hahahaha! Hi Tom! I had to smile because I so agree that gardening is a bit of a gamble every single day! Yet the "payoff" comes back in ways that we don't anticipate.. And just based upon everyone's comments I think it tugs at us all. Yes, it is work, sometimes hard work, but there is something about it that adds up to so much more. Thank you again for including my post and maybe what you need is a "Tower Garden" like my husband Thom. :-) ~Kathy

Mona McGinnis said...

Michael Pollan, about mindful eating, says the garden is a bad place for perfectionists. Also, that planting is an incredibly optimistic act, an act of faith in the future.

Laura Lee Carter said...

I have found nurturing plants of any kind to be one of the most satisfying activities of my entire life. Whenever my life stops making sense, I return to growing new life. That always makes me feel much better. Can't wait until our new home is finished in the foothills west of here, so I can start planting again!

Stephen Hayes said...

We'd all be in better shape if we did what you suggest.

Anonymous said...

Our only child lives in NYC but has a tiny herb garden, she loves the feel of dirt and growing plants..She was in Austin, TX her favorite city the friends she stayed with have a huge huge plot of land and plant everything, between her work and staying at their lovely farm as she calls it she worked the land she was happy as could be..I think it is wonderful to plant and live on the land I did as a youngster we ate mostly what was grown and farmed and we had cows, sheep and fresh eggs and cream was sold to a dairy and to a family who make cheese they got milk too! Every summer we had a huge 4th of july picnic in the front yard which was huge, we also put out the wash daily on a big line, no clothes dryer and the freezer was huge filled with food from the farm..It had a porch my sister and brother and I slept on when it got hot in the summer enclosed in netting and some kind of fly thingie that kept all the squitors as I called them, it was heaven and we made real ice cream and cranked it hard as my gradpa would say, one phone on a huge party line and one tv black and white one radio and the home was quiet..long gone now..The land was sold they never developed it and I think one gets their feelings about life from living on a farm and tilling the land as my grade school teachers would say..Everyone worked together on the land..happy Passover and happy easter coming up soon!

Olga Hebert said...

Oh how I wish You had not ended the way you did! I had all but convinced myself to give up my vegetable gardening attempts and go the route of cultivating friends with large gardens. Well perhaps I will join a CSA and stick with the flowers. At least I have flowers that are not critter food.

Barbara said...

I've never been a great gardener even though I have tried and failed several times. I do think there is a bit of a green thumb to it as well as trial and error. I do have many flowering plants and it is a case of only the strong survive. As it is harder for me to bend over for any length of time, after the plants leave the potting table it is mostly vocal encouragement that keeps them going.

rosaria williams said...

Life is short; do what you love. I happen to like gardening, and don't mind the work at all. I do get help with the big chores of tilling, pruning...The reward for me is eating well and watching things grow while my body gets a good workout.

Anonymous said...

That spammer/scammer is certainly persistent, Tom.
Cop Car
P.S. Gardening was something that I did with the kids every Sunday, during the season. I found that they and I could talk about what was going on in their lives without my having to pry stuff out of them!

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